Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biography of Helen E. Christian, 1879-1930

By Emily Lemen, undergraduate student, SUNY Potsdam

Helen E. Starks was born in Virginia; although her birthday is unknown, she was most likely born within the years 1879-1885. She died in Harlem, New York on December 24, 1930 after years of illness, and was buried in Flushing, Queens. Helen's mother Carolyn Starks, and father James Stark, were both born in Virginia, where they gave birth to Helen. Caroline Starks knew how to read and write and so did Helen, although Helen Starks never received formal education. She became Helen Christian after her marriage to Thomas L. Christian in 1897. The 1900 federal manuscript census records this couple as living in Maryland. In 1904, while living in New Jersey, Helen gave birth to a son, William Christian. By 1905, Helen had moved again. This time she moved with her cousin George Hitchings to 318 59th St. Manhattan, while self-employed at a candy store. During the summer of 1909, Helen Christian began having medical issues. It was during this summer that her cousin George Hitchings sent her away from Manhattan, to Atlantic City for several weeks. Shortly after, in 1910, Helen Christian had given birth to her second child, Careto A L H Christian. By 1920, Helen had moved again to Harlem, specifically West 136 Street South Side, only a few blocks from 2285 Seventh St., which was the headquarters for the Colored Women's Suffrage Club of New York City of which Helen was a part.

Helen Christian was not only a member of the Colored Women's Suffrage Club of New York (affiliated with the New York City Woman's Suffrage Party), but traveled with the group to attend a women's suffrage conference in Saratoga, New York. The New York Age noted Helen Christian's attendance alongside the president of the Colored Women's Suffrage Club in an article from September 6, 1917 saying, "Among the women who accompanied Mrs. Lewis to the convention were Mrs. M. M. Young, Mrs. Helen Christian, Miss LeRue Sand, Mrs. Ella Cunningham and Mrs. Lizzie B. Sims." It was during this convention that a few of the members of the Colored Women's Suffrage Club felt they had been treated differently and unfairly, in comparison to the white women in attendance. On September 13, 1917, the club held a meeting to address these issues. The New York Age reported that in response to the racist allegations made, "Mrs. Helen Christian, another colored delegate, stated that she had attended every session of the convention and had not seen the slighting indication on the part of anyone to snub the colored women who were made welcome as the white women to all privileges and courtesies."

In 1929, Helen Christian was listed as living at what was once the headquarters of the Colored Women's Suffrage Club of New York City, at 2285 Seventh Avenue. This address was just a few minutes walk from St. Paul Baptist Church where Helen Christian attended services.

On multiple occasions nearing her death in 1930, St. Paul Baptist Church reported on Helen Christian's health within The New York Age. In November 1929, Helen was hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital. On December 24, 1930, Helen Christian passed away. According to St. Paul Baptist Church, she was a "faithful member" of the church and her funeral service, which was held at the church, had a very large attendance.



"Colored Women Attend Suffragette Meeting" The New York Age, September 6, 1917. Accessed October 17, 2017.

"Decision Reached at Meeting of Colored Woman's Suffrage Club." The New York Age, September 20, 1917. Accessed October 17, 17.

Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. (NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls) website

"Manhattan and Brooklyn Religious Activities" The New York Age, January 3, 1931. Accessed October 17, 2017.

"Manhattan and Brooklyn Religious Activities," The New York Age, November 29, 1930. Accessed October 17, 2017.

"New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949," database, FamilySearch ( : 20 March 2015), Helen Christian, 24 Dec 1930; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,057,938.

New York, State Census, 1905. Population Schedules. New York State Archives, Albany, New York. website

"The News of Greater New York" The New York Age, July 29, 1909. Accessed October 17, 2017.

Twelfth and Thirteenth Censuses of the United States, 1900 and 1910, accessed via website

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